Spoiler Alert: This article does have spoilers for season 6 of Bojack Horseman.
That’s the funny thing about closure. You often never get it. And if you get it, you won’t like how you get it. Because “closure” is a pipe-dream.
Netflix juggernaut Bojack Horseman has finally come to a worthy and appropriate end. And for six seasons, the show was praised for tackling issues like addiction, depression, family trauma, and more through its terribly flawed and titular protagonist, Bojack. But in its final season, BH took on the mythical unicorn that is “closure” through Bojack’s sister, Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack. And contrary to what some viewers are thinking about how the show handles Hollyhock’s exit, I have got to say:
Bojack Horseman nails it.
Earlier in the show, both in seasons three and four, Hollyhock is introduced as a young teenage girl-horse who is trying to locate Bojack because she believes that he is her father. With his philandering ways, that wouldn’t be that far of a stretch at all. Bojack freaks out at first—which is to be expected of him—but then they both set out to find her birth mom and, in the very least, try to get to know each other. But with all their digging and prodding into the past, they are both eventually informed by Bojack’s dementia-ridden mother (Beatrice Horseman) that Hollyhock was actually the direct result of an illicit affair between Bojack’s father (Butterscotch Horseman) and their maid, Henrietta Platchkey. While such information inserts a bit more confusion into the mix, the two eventually settle into their relationship as siblings and embark on trying to get to know each other properly in this capacity.
Things take a left turn when Hollyhock attends a party in New York during season six. At this party, she meets a boy named Peter and through a series of stories he narrates to her on a fire escape, the audience is reminded that Peter was part of Penny’s friend group with whom she attended prom and that Bojack had ditched them at the ER when it became clear that Peter’s girlfriend, Maddy, was experiencing alcohol poisoning.
The latter part of season six brings all of these events to the forefront, including Bojack’s actual involvement in the death of Sarah Lynn. Though Hollyhock had promised Bojack they would take their relationship slow, she ends up instead abruptly departing from the show and all we—and Bojack—are left with is a letter, sent to a house he no longer lives in.
Something that really struck me about this is the fact that Bojack immediately recognizes that it cannot be good news.
He sees her 42908204830932 names spread out on the envelope when he receives it and instead of reading it right away, his hands shake and he stuffs the letter in his coat. Bojack attempts to read this letter a couple more times and each time is the same. His hands shake, he puts the letter away. Rinse, lather, repeat. He eventually mentions this letter to Mel Gibson-stand-in Vance Waggoner and like the true douchebag he is, he suggests that if Bojack simply ignores it, puts off reading it, and puts off confronting the words in that letter, Hollyhock is technically still in his life. Those who have dealt with ignoring an angry text-storm or glossing over a long-ass voicemail from a loved one (or whatever their chosen method of “final” communication) know this denial tactic well. And will recognize that it is merely the beginning stages of the precarious thing we recognize as “closure”.
Of course, like with all things, Bojack isn’t able to ignore this letter for long and towards the end of this same episode, he is forced to read the letter after his phone call to her goes straight to voicemail. I was initially skeptical about the letter being the final piece of communication between Bojack and Hollyhock, mostly because I didn’t know if the writers would be brave enough to parse the abruptness of what closure actually looks like 99.9 percent of the time. But when I heard that faithful “this phone number has been disconnected and is no longer in service” message, I knew. And this is quickly revealed to the audience as well when Bojack reads the contents of the letter, sighs, drops it, and then returns to a college party where he chucks his sobriety into the sun. There are some brilliant things that I’ve been wanting to highlight ever since I witnessed this moment.
But probably the most brilliant of all… is the fact that the show’s writers intentionally bar us from seeing the contents of that letter.
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Not only does Bojack not read it to us, but we’re also not even able to accidentally read the words on the page ourselves because they have cleverly been reduced to a bunch of scribbles. My first reaction was a very blunt “What the fuck,” because as y’all know I can be a bit nosy, and I definitely wanted to know all the ways that Hollyhock had told Bojack to go fuck himself after finding out about Maddy and Sarah Lynn. But, because I am aware that every big and subtle action written and performed in BH is always intentional and serves a purpose we’re meant to meditate on thereafter, it quickly dawned on me that this was the “closure”. This was Hollyhock’s goodbye. Not just to Bojack, but to us—the audience. We are experiencing this abrupt ending to their relationship right along with Bojack and thus are able to experience the resulting gut-punch.
An outlet or two have asserted that Hollyhock did not receive a proper send-off because of how abrupt her exit was, but me? I’d argue that this was the exact send-off that she needed, Bojack needed, and we needed to see as an audience. Why? Because “closure” in the plainest sense, if you believe that it is indeed a thing, is often this abrupt. And frankly, I thought it was brave of the writers to not be scared of upsetting viewers and potential viewers in this way, by denying us the opportunity to see the contents of the letter. You know why? Because had we seen the contents of the letter, then we would be left with 497432987 questions and would probably be asking 23213478 more of them.
Why did Hollyhock say that? Why did she choose to write this letter? Why not talk to Bojack over the phone? Why not talk to him face-to-face? Why did she move? Why doesn’t she want to see Bojack anymore? Can’t they work something out?
These are maybe, like, a mere handful of the questions that Hollyhock (and a potential stand-in for someone who has been forced to abruptly end an unhealthy relationship) would be charged with answering had the contents of the letter been revealed. And in addition to this, such questions may have forced her to prolong the ending of this relationship in order to give us—and BoJack—the “closure” that we so passionately desire from her and think we deserve. But this disconnect that we are feeling, at the way that she ends things, is by design because when you are on the receiving end of such a thing as “closure”, you often have no choice in the matter. You have no choice in how it is done and you have no choice in how someone grants it to you.
That’s the funny thing about “closure”. You often never get it. And if you get it, you won’t like how you get it. Because “closure” is a pipe-dream. A phantom of a concept. A ghost that we chase hoping that it will preserve the remnants of something—or someone—that we loved. And probably still love. I have been on the dispensing end of “closure”, as many of you have. And I’m sure that one day, I may, unfortunately, be on the receiving end, as many of you also have. And one thing that both you and I must understand about this mythological unicorn known as “closure” is that its purpose—above all—is to serve as the period at the end of a sentence and the silence after a disconnected phone call.Because there is no conversation after closure. No continuation of anything, even friendship, after “closure”. It is finite. And that is the point. We can either accept that or we can chase whatever “closure” we thought we were going to get—and never get it.